Arabic Version

  • At the Jordan River Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist… And, we may wonder why in the Jordan River specifically? Why not in the Dead Sea, for example, or even in the Mediterranean?

  • St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “Actually, the Jordan River of all rivers, received the first-fruit of sanctification, and overflowed with the blessing of baptism over the whole world.” May be that choice was meant to point to three events in the Old Testament that happened in it and which symbolize in a way or another to the baptism of Christ: (1) Crossing the river by Joshua, (2) crossing the river by Elijah, and (3) the washing of Naaman the Syrian in the river.

The divine inspiration was careful to present us with a long and gradual preparation, throughout the generations, to baptism, incarnation, and the sacrifice on the cross. As with incarnation, which if happened without any precursors, and symbols in the Old Testament would have been hard to understand and accept; the same with baptism, which needed symbols and signs in the Old Testament to prepare us to comprehend it.

 So what is the relation between these events and Baptism in general, and Christ in particular?

1.Crossing the Jordan River by Joshua (Joshua 3)

 Joshua who led the people across the Jordan River, to settle in Jerusalem, was a symbol to our true Jesus who crossed with us trough the water of baptism so that we can enter into the heavenly Jerusalem. Also, Joshua, who started his leadership to the people after crossing the Jordan River, was a symbol to Christ who started His ministry after being baptized from John the Baptist.

 The Israelites entered the land of promise only after crossing the Jordan River, a symbol to the necessity of baptism to enter the heavenly Jerusalem (John 3:3,5). Baptism transforms us from slaves to sin into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God, as it gives us the son-ship.

  •  They crossed the river, with the priests at the front carrying the ark of covenant, a symbol to Christ going into baptism first to lead us in the way to the kingdom of God. They carried twelve stones from the middle of the river, and put in their place another twelve stones, as a symbol to the death and resurrection of Christ, as we die and get buried with Him then we arise in baptism (Romans 6:3,4). Also, the church, the living stones of God, became alive through the water of baptism; and every human being becomes a living stone in the church.

  •    Placing the twelve stones in the river was a clear symbol to the twelve disciples, the baptizers that Jesus sent and told to go and teach and baptize all who have faith (Matthew 28:19).

  •  After crossing the river they celebrated Passover, and they were circumcised with a sharp stone, a sign to the abolishment of the old evil nature, and the removal of the blemish of sin. That was a symbol to the new nature that we get through baptism.

  •    This was followed by eating the Passover with bread without yeast, made from the wheat of the Promised Land, as they were became able to eat from the New Jerusalem. We too, we only partake from the Eucharist, the bread of life, after baptism (John 6:48-56).

  •  Also, after crossing the Jordan River, the fortified Jericho fell without a war, a symbol to our victory over Satan with the power of Jesus Christ.

  • We notice that crossing the Jordan required faith, as water was not divided until they feet touched the river (Joshua 3:13-16), a sign to the necessity of faith to receive the blessings of baptism. This was unlike what happened while crossing the Red Sea, as water was divided first, and then they crossed the river; baptism transformed the bitterness of sin (the water of the Red Sea) into the sweetness of pure life (the water of the Jordan River.)

2.Crossing the Jordan River by Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-11)

  •  Elijah ascended to the heavens alive, but not without water… as before he was carried alive to heaven in the fiery chariots, he took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water, and the water was divided, and he passed with his disciple Elisha. This way he was baptized in the Jordan River, as St. Paul calls traversing the Jordan River, baptism. This way, Elijah was prepared to ascend to heavens.

  •    The water of baptism gives us life in place of death, and it prepares us for the ever-lasting life in the heavenly Jerusalem.

  •  In his life on earth, Elijah prophesied clearly about the sacrament of baptism that was to be instituted later, as fire from heaven descended on the water that he poured on his offering three times, and which filled the trench that was around the altar, a symbol for submersion three times in the baptism water; and the fire consumed the offering, the wood, and licked the water that was in the trenches, a sign for God’s acceptance of his burnt sacrifice, and a symbol for the coming down of the Holy Spirit on the baptism water, and the oblation on the altar. Afterwards, Elijah was victorious over his evil enemies, and he killed them; exactly like the believer who, after baptism, can be victorious over his enemies, i.e., Satan and his followers.

3.The Washing of Naaman the Syrian in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5)

  •  Following the advice of a captive young girl from Israel, Naaman the Syrian came with his horses and chariots, and stood by the door of Elisha’s house asking for healing from leprosy. Elisha did not go out to meet him, but he sent to him saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious and said, “Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” And he intended to go back to his country, but his servants advised him to follow Elisha’s order, which he did, and he was healed from his leprosy, so he went back with all his army, and stood before Elisha.

  •  Elisha declared in advance the inexpressible richness of the baptism water; and, in the same time he showed that it will be available for all who believe from any race, as he sent Naaman the Syrian, who was not an Israeli, to the Jordan River.

  •    Those who wash by the spiritual Elisha, i.e., our Lord and Savior, are cleansed in the sacrament of baptism from sin, and they are renewed again.

  •  We must notice that Naaman did not meet Elisha before going into the Jordan River, even though he went to his door; he only met him after going into the river. Similarly, we can not enter into a fellowship with Christ unless we go through the second birth in baptism.

  •  We notice also that the king of Israel tore his clothes when he read the letter from the king of Syria, and he said, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy?” By that, the king of Israel prophesied, without noticing, about the power of baptism, as it is not in the reach of any human to give the renewal that we get in baptism, but it the work of God who cleanse us from the leprosy of sin, it is God who deadens our old nature, and revives a new nature in us.

  •  And who is this young girl among the captives? She is the flock that was gathered from within the gentiles, the church of God that was previously captive by sin, this by which the gentiles learned about salvation, and when they gave heed to her teachings, they washed from the impurity of sin.

  •  The Jordan River was glorified because he renews people, and plants them in paradise, as St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “There is no other river that can take away leprosy from a human, only that one river (The Jordan River) when someone enters it with faith and washes himself in Jesus… The reason for that is that those who wash in Him are saved from slavery in Egypt (as a symbol for the love of the world,) like Joshua who crossed it after leaving Egypt and the wilderness, and they become capable of ascending to heaven (like Elijah who crossed it before ascending to heaven,) and in Him, they are healed from leprosy (like Naaman the Syrian,) so that they become ready to receive the Holy Spirit.